No need to get red-faced – how to tackle rosacea
When it comes to skin complaints, we’re very used to hearing about the most common conditions such as eczema and acne. Rosacea, however, whilst much less talked about, also affects over 415 million people worldwide.
I ashamedly remember buying a glossy gossip magazine back in my twenties, when the culture of ripping apart celebrities for their appearance seemed somehow acceptable.
There was a picture of Cameron Diaz on the front, snapped without make-up on the beach with flushed red bumps across her cheeks. I still recall feeling slightly elated at the realisation that pretty actresses have skin problems, too.
Cameron Diaz isn’t the only A-lister who suffers from rosacea. Prince William, Renée Zellweger and Bill Clinton also blame the condition for their often-flushed appearance.
Rosacea commonly affects the nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin. It’s a condition seen more often in women, although men who suffer with it tend to have more severe symptoms.
Rosacea can sometimes be misdiagnosed as acne, since it often feels as though skin is flushed with tiny raised pimples.
But whilst it commonly begins as flushing or blushed cheeks, it may spread to the ears, chest or back and, in some cases, it can inflame and irritate the eyes.
Over time, rosacea redness can become more intense, taking on an almost semi-permanent rouged or ruddy look.
The key to avoiding this is tackling the problem as early as possible. As with lots of skin conditions, that comes down to establishing your triggers as opposed to merely masking symptoms.
Medical prescriptions for rosacea are available. These usually involve steroid creams, a course of antibiotics or IPL (intense pulsed light) treatment – none of which promise to cure it.
Doctors are still somewhat perplexed by rosacea and its possible causes, with some experts citing an immune system imbalance and others highlighting poor gut health.
When it comes to our skin, the gut microbiome is a huge area of research, with scientists revealing a type of bacteria called H. pylori can raise the amount of a digestive hormone called gastrin. This, in turn, might cause skin to appear red and flushed.
Let’s take a look at what might help or hinder us when it comes to tackling rosacea.
Evidence suggests that flushing can be exacerbated by drinking alcohol or eating spicy foods, as well as sun exposure and extremes in temperature.
Stress is also thought to play a part, as heightened anxiety can cause an enhanced release of some neuropeptides in the skin. This then triggers blood vessels to dilate, which leads to a vicious cycle, as these unwelcome symptoms increase stress levels once more.
According to clinical research, half of all adults with rosacea report that drinking alcohol has a detrimental effect on their skin. A single G&T could be enough to trigger flare-ups such as skin flushing and redness.
Hot drinks tend to be problematic too, especially mulled wine or warm cider, as well as alcohol-free beverages with caffeine in them.
It’s also interesting to note that in a survey of over 400 people conducted by the National Rosacea Society, spices and spicy foods were found to worsen symptoms in up to 75 percent of adults. The common culprit is likely to be the chemical ‘capsaicin’, which gives these foods their ‘heat’.
Whilst I’m a big advocate of herbs for the tasty, healthy flavours they offer to recipes, warming spices might not be ideal for rosacea sufferers. Try to limit chillies, pimento and paprika, all of which can trigger an inflammatory reaction.
In addition, cinnamaldehyde – the compound that gives cinnamon its familiar pungent flavour – can cause a warming sensation that’s also been shown to trigger rosacea symptoms. Be mindful that it’s found not just in cinnamon but in a wide range of foods including some chewing gum, fruit juices and ice cream.
GETTING RID OF THE RED
When it comes to what we should be eating more of, it might sound like common sense but cooling greens are ideal for rosacea. Hydrating cucumber, soothing leafy veg such as spinach, green beans and chard or non-citrus fruits such as grapes, melon, and mango are all wonderful. Staying hydrated by drinking lots of water is important, too.
As with many skin conditions, prebiotic and probiotic foods can be particularly useful. Bananas, leeks, watermelon, asparagus, garlic and grains such as oats and amaranth are great prebiotics, whilst sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh and kefir offer powerful probiotics.
In terms of supplements, the evidence is not currently conclusive, but research points towards healthy Omega 3 fatty acids and zinc being particularly beneficial in helping to improve rosacea. In this regard, eating foods rich in Omega 3 such as walnuts, chia seeds, hemp and algae (think spirulina) can prove particularly helpful, as well as incorporating lots of legumes like chickpeas, lentils and beans, all of which are rich in zinc.
When it comes to sensitive skin, we should always put a little more thought into what we massage in. For rosacea, I would recommend using a naturally hydrating cleanser, avoiding strongly scented face creams, and applying a minimum SPF15 sunscreen daily.
Green tea extract has also been shown to soothe rosacea symptoms. One of my favourite homemade skincare recipes is to brew a pot of green tea, pour the tea into a bowl and add ice cubes, then use a facecloth to apply it as a cooling compress to the cheeks.
Working out your triggers is crucial to keep rosacea flares under control. Trying to establish what’s most problematic for you can feel a bit frustrating at times.
When it comes to researching these correlations, I find keeping a food journal really useful. This doesn’t have to be anything more complex than making a note of what you’ve eaten and how your skin feels each day.
If you think anxiety or climate might play a role, making a note of how stressed you’re feeling, and the weather can also be helpful. Journals are particularly useful to look back at when you’re trying to establish what causes your rosacea to flare and seeing patterns emerge can help you to keep skin calm in the long-run.
Hanna Sillitoe began sharing her personal battle with skin health through an online food blog, which eventually led to her best-selling book Radiant – Recipes to Heal Skin from Within. Hanna’s book has sold over 25,000 copies around the world and it’s the 28-day plan within this book that many of her online followers credit as having cured their skin complaints.
Use code BALANCE10 for your 10% discount at www.HannaSillitoe.com
Skin Healing Expert: Your 5 pillar plan for calm, clear skin by Hanna Sillitoe will be published by Kyle Books, 14th May 2020, £19.99 and is available for pre-order now.